In 2011, the Houston Astros embarked on one of the worst runs in recent MLB history, finishing with 100+ losses three seasons in a row. It was one train wreck after another, and not even the cute, undersized Minute Maid locomotive could salvage this embarrassment of a team.
In 2015, the “Lastros” not only posted a winning record for the first time since 2008, they also managed to grab wild card spot, advancing to the divisional round before falling to the eventual World Series champs Kansas City Royals. And of course, two years after that, the Astros would hoist their own World Series trophy atop the smoldering remains of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Today, the Astros are the gold standard for rebuilds, a best-case scenario for teams currently mired in their worst-case scenarios.
The San Francisco Giants find themselves in such a position, laboring through the overture of a rebuild that wasn’t a rebuild until it was. However, their efforts are hampered by long, relatively expensive contracts for several past-their-prime players, including Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Jeff Samardzija. By 2021, the Giants will still have more than $90 million allocated to just eight players.
At the time of their rebuild, the only contract of note the Astros had on the books was Carlos Lee, and they traded him to the Miami Marlins almost immediately. But the more pertinent question to me is, what players on that 2011 Astros contributed to the 2015 team? Let’s take a look at the list:
1. Jose Altuve
That’s it. That’s the entire list. But what they lacked on the active roster, the Astros were making up through the draft, trades, and free agency. Over the next four years, they would add Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Lance McCullers Jr. (draft); Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez (trades); and of course, former Giants legend Jerome Williams (free agency). And don’t forget current free agent Dallas Keuchel, who was drafted in 2009.
Which leads to the next question: Which players currently on the roster or in the system are likely to contribute to the next good Giants’ team?
The answer… does not look good. The Giants don’t have a player of Altuve’s caliber on the roster, and it would be a quite a leap right now to say Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos are equals to Correa and Springer. And while Sean Hjelle looked Hjella good in his San Jose debut, he’s no McCullers or Keuchel—not yet, anyway.
He is freakishly tall, though.
Just in case you forgot.
Anyway, the Giants are a team bereft of prospects, and that spells Lastro-levels of disaster for the next few years. But the team’s downfall could also be its salvation, as the new front office is sure to net a healthy bounty of early-round draft picks.
The next few years of prospect hunting will be pivotal in determining their fortunes going forward, but it’s worth noting the Giants have been here before. During their last “rebuild,” the Giants created a core of players that would bring three World Series trophies to San Francisco, and they did it through smart drafting, smart trades, and smart free agency pickups.
The Giants are going to be bad for a while, and it’s going to be hard to watch. But they don’t have to look far into their past to find reasons to hope.